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Passivhaus for Educational Buildings

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Passivhaus Retrofit

The Passivhaus standard is increasingly becoming adopted for schools and university buildings across the UK because of its reliable building performance, energy savings, and the benefits it can bring to occupant comfort and learning outcomes. Educational buildings can be an energy-guzzling drain on public funds. Older buildings often provide uncomfortable places to work or study, being either too cold, stuffy, draughty or hot. 

Passivhaus for Educational Buildings is an ongoing PHT campaign to assist Local Authorities, Universities, and Further Education providers in adopting and implementing the Passivhaus standard across campus - from classrooms to lecture theatres, specialist teaching & staff spaces, and student accommodation.

Harris Academy, Sutton. Image credit: Architype


Why Passivhaus?

IMPROVED LEARNING OUTCOMES: Studies have shown that CO2 concentrations affect our performance at cognitive work, with a degradation at decision-making at just 1000 ppm, with a significant impact at 2500 ppm. Excessive noise can also interfere with children's learning, as can extremes of temperature within a building. Passivhaus buildings are proven to offer more consistent temperatures and improve indoor air quality as well as reducing noise issues, through enhanced insulation.

Hackbridge Primary School, Architype. Image Credit: Jack Hobhouse. Quote: Adam Whiteley - “This is a building that had to be an exemplar for zero carbon and sustainability. The project team rose to the challenge. The result is a beautiful school that celebrates our natural world and inspires children in their learning every day.”

BILL BUSTING: Heating educational buildings has been increasingly challenging during the soaring energy bill crisis. By building to the Passivhaus standard, heating needs can be reduced by up to 90%, resulting in much lower fuel bills for cash-strapped local authorities and educational establishments.

It is Passivhaus' ability to deliver as-designed building performance and to avoid the performance gap that is also benefiting from a funding mechanism that has been established for Scottish schools by the Scottish Futures Trusts, which rewards buildings that perform as designed. 

Dunfermline Super Campus, Image credit: Fife Council |

HEALTHY BUILDINGS: As the COVID pandemic highlighted, it is vital to have good ventilation and indoor air quality in multi-occupant communal buildings such as schools, university buildings, and student accommodation. Passivhaus buildings do not rely on opening windows for adequate ventilation - which means pupils do not have to freeze or sit inside with coats on! Continuous fresh air provided by the ventilation system (Mechanical Ventilation with Heat Recovery) provides excellent indoor air quality.

CO2 concentrations in schools. Source: Passivhaus Trust Benefits Guide 2021

Thanks to high-quality construction & triple glazing, a Passivhaus creates a peaceful sound-proof environment, which can also have beneficial learning outcomes in educational buildings close to busy roads. 


Lucy Cavendish College, Image credit: Nick Gutteridge |

DURABILITY & FUTUREPROOFING: Passivhaus projects are proven to perform, on average, exactly as modelled and have over 25 years’ worth of research & data. Invest in quality and value now to save on costly repairs later. The quality assurance process helps eradicate shortfalls in performance and creates resilient buildings with lower maintenance.  

CLIMATE ACTION: According to the latest International Parliamentary Committee for Climate Change (IPCC) report, we now only have a few years left to reduce emissions enough to avoid a catastrophic rise in global temperatures. The UK has set targets to reduce total emissions by 78% of 1990 levels by 2035 and to net zero by 2050. Many local authorities have also set their own local Climate Emergency goals. These targets will be unattainable without decarbonising our buildings. Passivhaus offers the most robust & cost-effective route to net zero for the building sector. The younger generation seem to better grasp this and many are calling for their schools to provide better climate literacy. 

Discover much more in the Passivhaus benefits guide which identifies almost 50 benefits categorized into 6 key areas, and backed by several references.

Passivhaus Benefits Guide

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Get inspired

From local authorities delivering schools & learning centres, to University estates covering large lecture theatres & student accommodation, Passivhaus is increasingly the building standard of choice for both newbuild and retrofit educational buildings

There has been a huge increase in the number of schools adopting Passivhaus, especially in Scotland, thanks to an innovative funding mechanism from the Scottish Futures Trust. Award winning University buildings are pioneering the standard at scale, and several are now looking to integrate Passivhaus into their sustainability strategies across the whole campus estates to reach net zero carbon targets.  Below is a selection of certified schemes displaying a range of constructions & contexts.  Browse more examples in the Project Gallery 

Erne Campus © Hamilton Architects
Enterprise Centre - 2019 UK Passivhaus Award winner. Image © Architype Thornhill Primary School Passivhaus extension. © ECD Architects
Stebon Primary School. © Paul Riddle Rocking Horse Nursery classroom
St Edward's School. Image credit: St Edward's School Two-Rivers-Passivhaus-Primary Passivhaus Plus © Bhagesh Sachania Photography STEM at Bradford - 2015 UK Passivhaus Awards Finalist. Image © University of Bradford
Cranmer Road - 2021 UK Passivhaus Award Winner. Image © Allies and Morrison George Davies Centre - 2018 UK Passivhaus Awards, People's Choice. Image © Martine Hamilton-Knight Wilkinson Primary School - 2015 UK Passivhaus Awards Winner. Image © Architype

In development

Currie Community High SchoolUWE Student Residences Dunfermline Learning Campus. Image credit: AHR Architects

Is there a Passivhaus educational building near you?

Passivhaus Classic

Browse our Passivhaus Trust Certified Projects map to discover more Passivhaus educational buildings completed throughout the UK. Look for the Education icons on the map. 


Passivhaus Trust Certified Project Map

For examples of other civic buildings such as libraries, leisure centres, and fire stations, browse the civic & cultural Passivhaus projects.  Browse more examples in the Passivhaus project sectors.



Passivhaus is not just for new build, and many local authorities, universities and educational providers are seeking improvements to their existing building stock. Discover more about Passivhaus retrofit and watch our free introduction video. 

The Entopia Building - Cambridge Institute for Sustainable Leadership
St. Sophia's Primary School
Edinburgh City Council: EnerPHit-inspired retrofit programme
Exeter University new build & retrofit plans for student accommodation.

Learn. Understand. Get ahead

PREVIOUS EVENTS: Across past campaign phases, the Trust has run several events focused on educational buildings from procurement webinars to case study workshops. Many are now available on-demand and snippets of a selection can be viewed in the videos below.

Passivhaus for Eduational Buildings: School Procurement Passivhaus for Educational Buildings: University Procurement
Passivhaus for Educational Buildings: Scottish policy & case studies - 09 Sept 2020 Passivhaus for Eduational Buildings: University case studies - 16 September 2020 Passivhaus for Educational Buildings: Schools - 23 September 2020


Universities & further education


TRAINING:  Learn more about the Passivhaus process. Take advantage of Passivhaus guidance, from introductory tips to best practice guides. There are several resources available. Many on-demand courses offer free access to local authorities.


How to build a Passivhaus: Good practice guide Passivhaus Retrofit Masterclass lecture series Passivhaus Benefits: Research Summary Guide, 2021
Certified Training
Passivhaus on-demand: training & resources Getting to Net Zero Passivhaus construction costs paper



Find the right team

PHT members map

All the team needs to get on board and understand the key Passivhaus concepts or be willing to learn. Previous experience can offer an advantage, but what is more important is a culture of quality. 

Grow your networks and hear directly from those already implementing the standard. Check the teams on the case studies above. Learn from their success factors & how to avoid common mistakes. Explore our members' map  of UK Passivhaus professionals who may be able to help. Site visits offer an excellent chance to speak directly to those involved. 

Can't find what you are looking for in the UK? Look further afield - It’s an international standard!


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Further information

Passivhaus Schools & Educational Buildings


Passivhaus Cost Benefits

Passivhaus & Net Zero

Previous PHT story: Councils Can: Exemplar Local Plans & policies - 1 May 2023

Previous PHT story: Super-sized Scottish campus targets Passivhaus - 22 November 2022

Previous PHT story: Scottish Schools lead largescale Passivhaus – 8 April 2022

Asbp healthy buildings tutorial indoor air quality and health